Seed catalogs hold the promise of spring
January in the Red River Valley of the North gets a bad rap because it's a long, cold month - the coldest on the calendar. But there is a warming factor that happens as regularly as winter sundogs glowing in the afternoon sky: Seed catalogs arriv...
January in the Red River Valley of the North gets a bad rap because it's a long, cold month - the coldest on the calendar.
But there is a warming factor that happens as regularly as winter sundogs glowing in the afternoon sky: Seed catalogs arrive in mail boxes. The first of them showed up a few days ago, and more are sure to follow.
I'm a hit-and-miss gardener. Some years my tomatoes and green beans are spectacular hits. Other years, tomatoes either fail to ripen or disease gets them. The beans can be tough and stringy or rabbits and squirrels get them. Major misses.
I attribute the variability of my success to fickle weather, hungry critters and the ever-spreading shade cast by the big river bottom trees in my yard. Too much shade isn't good for tomatoes and beans, master gardeners tell me.
Anyway, the first seed catalog to arrive was one that's familiar to every serious or not-so-serious gardener. This year it features new varieties of corn, tomatoes, beans, carrots, berries, apples, flowers, trees and shrubs. But the catalog's enduring appeal for me is its loyalty to older, tried-and-true plants. The seed and nursery company has a long history of developing and improving plants that grow in the north.
I use the spring catalogs as guides for buying plants from area garden centers. I've discovered over the years that buying locally is smart for several reasons. First, the people at garden centers in the region - especially the ones that have been around for generations - know what grows here and what won't. They know soil type variations, mini-climates and water quality variability.
Second, they stand behind their plant stock. If it fails, most local nurseries will replace it.
Finally, talking about plants and planting with garden center owners and knowledgeable employees is a delightful educational spring ritual. Talking to a catalog might have my family wondering about my mental stability.
Snow still lies deep over our gardens. Perennials are in deep sleep. The annual beds await new tenants. I'm already trying to gauge shade patterns to determine where best to plant sun-loving tomatoes and beans. A little tree-trimming might be necessary.
For now, however, a little time with the bright colors of seed catalogs helps get through long, cold January.
Zaleski can be reached at email@example.com or (701) 241-5521.
Seed catalogs hold the promise of spring Jack Zaleski 20080113